Why the predominance of bourbon barrels for barrel aging?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by IamMe90, Feb 17, 2013.

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  1. Zhiguli

    Zhiguli Aspirant (244) Jul 12, 2012 California

    There are some just aged in oak. Some if the FW stuff if I'm not mistaken. BBA is yummy though, that coupled with the stockpiles of barrels sitting around must be the reason
  2. OneBeertoRTA

    OneBeertoRTA Devotee (490) Jan 2, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    Bourbon has the sweetness that makes big beers great. Additionally most bourbons are aged a minimum of 4 years and up and that's a lot of great nectar stolen by the angels that the beer has to pull out. It also doesn't hurt that there are well over 10M barrels available every year...
  3. dsal89

    dsal89 Disciple (331) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    I seriously look for reasons to say this:

    Gin isnt usually barreled but I had a weizenbock that was aged in gin barrels. My life changed
    loafinaround and OSUBeerStudent like this.
  4. Droogins

    Droogins Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2012 Massachusetts

    I believe that bourbon, by law, has to be aged in new charred barrels. So once you age a bourbon, you cannot reuse the barrel. Leading to lots of used barrels for sale to brewers.
    dar482 and mfnmbvp like this.
  5. MisterGrizz

    MisterGrizz Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2011 Texas

    To add to this, Tequila, many Rums, and many Cognacs are aged in barrels that have already housed bourbon or blended whiskey at one point. To a brewer, this may been seen as, for lack of a better term, double dipping, possibly adding undesirables of mixed bourbon/tequila/cognac flavors to the beer, and lacking the oak and vanilla flavors that are so sought after. Also, there is the very large spike in popularity in bourbons and whiskeys in the past year or two. But who knows, maybe using them will taste awesome? Never know till you try.. Just my $.02
  6. jimmy82063

    jimmy82063 Aspirant (274) Jan 5, 2009 Connecticut

    NebCo aged Gandhi Bot in Tequila Barrels a few years ago (Zapata Bot). I remember them going through a lot to get the barrels and I don't think they want to do that again. Tasty beer though!
  7. Spider889

    Spider889 Savant (980) Mar 24, 2010 Ohio
    Industry Beer Trader

    Certainly some is absorbed into the barrels, but the "Angel's Share" you seem to be referencing is actually evaporated contents. Because wood is porous the contents will escape completely. Ever hear talk about really old whiskies (18+ years)? Sometimes close to half of the original contents are gone by the end of the aging process - there's no way the wood is holding many gallons of lost spirits.

    There often is left over bourbon in used barrels (I've heard stories of ounces to a liter or more) which might get into the beer depending on whether the brewery wishes to clean the inside before use or not.
  8. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (747) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Bourbon is made from corn.
  9. OneBeertoRTA

    OneBeertoRTA Devotee (490) Jan 2, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    If you want to get really technical, yeah, angel's share refers to the portion that's evaporated and leaves the barrel.

    However, depending on the humidity it can be more water than alcohol. On a standard bourbon (2-4 years) that's 4-8%. However, the amount of bourbon that is absorbed into the barrel is typically 1 gallon of the 55 gallon barrel. That's not chump change. If you were to fill it back up with water it would taste very similiar to bourbon.
  10. mondegreen

    mondegreen Devotee (419) Nov 4, 2009 Georgia

    Johnnie Walker's is a blended scotch, so I don't think there is such a thing as "Johnnie Walker Barrels."
  11. No1Smitty

    No1Smitty Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    Grand Mariner Pliny the Younger ! Mmmmm
  12. Spider889

    Spider889 Savant (980) Mar 24, 2010 Ohio
    Industry Beer Trader

    They distill their own liquor though and place it into barrels... Blend just means that they can't say the scotch is 18yr precisely because the blend might be 12% 4yr, 30% 8yr, 48% 18yr and 10% 22yr or something. If a brewery truly wanted I'm sure that spent barrels exist after exhausted.

    But no, you can't say "I would be all over a beer aged in JW Green barrels."
  13. thousandfoldthought

    thousandfoldthought Initiate (0) Feb 26, 2012 Illinois

    The 3rd year? Had it on tap last weekend. Good, but not great. Nice winter warmer but didn't blow me away. Interested if bottling has different flavors.
  14. Spider889

    Spider889 Savant (980) Mar 24, 2010 Ohio
    Industry Beer Trader

    You phrased it as if the angel's share was what made barrel aging a beer worthwhile. The amount of water or ethanol that evaporates has nothing to do with what's absorbed by the wood either.

    If you dumped 1 gallon of bourbon into 55 gallons of beer it would be very potent. On the other hand, not every drop that's in the wood will make it back into the beer either.
  15. Colosdog

    Colosdog Initiate (0) Jan 30, 2013 Massachusetts

  16. mondegreen

    mondegreen Devotee (419) Nov 4, 2009 Georgia

    They blend single malts from around Scotland. For example, this blog cites Cardhu as a base spirit for Johnnie Walker:


    JW Green uses four malts "from the four corners of Scotland."

    While some malts are distilled exclusively for JW blends, many of them are single malts that are also available in their own expressions. Unfortunately, I don't know any more about their blends, as Diageo guards them as a trade secret.

    I'm more of a single malt guy myself. A sturdy beer aged in a good Islay barrel is tough to beat.
  17. OneBeertoRTA

    OneBeertoRTA Devotee (490) Jan 2, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    That's also why the abv doesn't go up more than a few percentage points in most cases after it's been in the barrel.

    There's a new bourbon out there that pulls the bourbon back out of the wood, it's pretty tasty.
  18. Resuin

    Resuin Meyvn (1,279) Jun 18, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    What's the beer? Is it available/bottled?
  19. dsal89

    dsal89 Disciple (331) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    I think it was a one off. It was Hopfen weisse. I had it at zwanze day in chicago
  20. OSUBeerStudent

    OSUBeerStudent Initiate (0) May 2, 2008 Washington

    Yep. Gin's among my favorite spirits and it can blend so well with non-imperial stout beers. There was a small barrel-aged festival a year or two ago in Portland OR, and the most interesting beers there to me were the few that were gin-barrel aged. Especially wheaty beers.
  21. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,147) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber

    Hof Ten Dormaal has a Sauternes barrel also,... and Armagnac... and a bunch of others... can't wait for the Sauternes to show up!
  22. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,147) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber

    The origins of gin are actually an original spirit stored in barrels. It's called Genever or a Schiedam. The gin you are thinking of is standard London dry, that they tried to copy from the "Dutch", and what most people think of when they think of gin.
    dsal89 likes this.
  23. Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky

    Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky Aspirant (272) Feb 13, 2013 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    Then I guess I amend my previous statement to: I would be all over a beer aged in the barrels of a delicious scotch.
  24. Lare453

    Lare453 Meyvn (1,318) Feb 1, 2012 Florida
    Beer Trader

    Ronny hextall? Best avatar on ba.
    ForkAndSpoonOp likes this.
  25. chocosushi

    chocosushi Initiate (0) May 1, 2011 Oklahoma

    droppin' knowledge!
    Giovannilucano likes this.
  26. Kinsman

    Kinsman Champion (873) Aug 26, 2009 California

    While mondegreen sort of clarified, just for BA's overall benefit, I'll clarify a bit more. Johnnie Walker does not distill their own liquor... it is simply a brand name for a blended scotch. Blend means the whisky in the bottle is blended from whisky (both single malt and grain) from more than one distillery and has nothing to do with age. Theoretically a blend of "12% 4yr, 30% 8yr, 48% 18yr and 10% 22yr" could still clarify as single malt if all of those different ages of barrels came from the same single malt distillery. In that case, however, it would most likely be sold as a non-age statement (NAS) whisky from the distillery and not by a brand like JW. Barrels of JW don't really exist since the blend is made up of various barrels from Diageo owned distilleries like Talisker, Caol Ila, or Cardu to name a few.

    Also, since it was brought up, JW Green is a special case because it's technically a blended MALT whisky. In this case, it's still blended from different distilleries like other JWs but there's no grain whisky in the blend. Grain whisky, for lack of a better analogy, is essentially the adjunct lager of whiskies. Single malt is 100% malted barley while grain can have any number of other grains. Most blends have both single malt and grain whisky (which is why they're cheaper) but a few like JW Green skip the grain and subsequently have a price tag similar to regular single malts.
    chinabeergeek likes this.
  27. OSUBeerStudent

    OSUBeerStudent Initiate (0) May 2, 2008 Washington

    While this is true, the definition of "gin" in the English-speaking world (IE this website) is pretty much London dry. It's not even ambiguous at this point.
  28. DPMomutant

    DPMomutant Devotee (460) Feb 10, 2004 Missouri

    I was wondering if Jim Beam's Devil's Cut would change the barrel aging game.
  29. OneBeertoRTA

    OneBeertoRTA Devotee (490) Jan 2, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    I think it's a fantastic bourbon, but I think flavored bourbons and whiskeys are where a lot of companies are gravitating towards.
  30. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Initiate (0) May 8, 2006 Michigan

    When you say "pulls the bourbon back out of the wood" what do you mean? Generally there is an exchange of liquid with the barrel, as liquid is pulled back out more is pulled back in, in order to maintain a sense of equilibrium. Granted I am not the barrel science expert but saying there is new bourbon that pulls bourbon back out of the wood seems like some great marketing with half truths or simply a condensed explanation that doesn't really explain anything.
  31. bsp77

    bsp77 Poo-Bah (1,898) Apr 27, 2008 Minnesota

    Others have already explained that that is not what blend means (it has nothing to do with different ages, but different distilleries). Also, blends can have a year on them. For instance, a blended whisky can say 12 year if the various single malts from different distilleries are all at least 12 year, AND if the grain whisky is also at least 12 year. JW Green leaves out the grain whisky.

    The lowest aged whisky is what would go on the bottle. If there is no age on the bottle, it is likely that at least one of the whiskies in the blend is less than 10 years.
  32. Spider889

    Spider889 Savant (980) Mar 24, 2010 Ohio
    Industry Beer Trader

    So you're trying to say I'm wrong by saying that my example of a blend is right? Lol

    Afaik, JW never has an age on it, but gold and blue are supposed to have whiskey of "at least" a certain age or something like that...
  33. bsp77

    bsp77 Poo-Bah (1,898) Apr 27, 2008 Minnesota

    Your explanation of a blend was not correct. Others explained it. You also said blended whiskies don't have an age, and inferred they can't. I was saying they can have an age listed, but many don't. Sorry I wasn't clear.

    Also, Black says 12 on it, Green says 15, and Gold says 18.
    chinabeergeek likes this.
  34. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,270) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    no, your definition of "blend" was incorrect.
  35. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,212) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Beyond the meshing of flavors, I know that out here in CO they're simply much easier to get. Almost every brewery in the state has a couple Stranahan's or Breckenridge whiskey barrels.
  36. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,270) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    - actually, lots of winemakers keep their "oak neutral" barrels indefinitely. many wine styles try to avoid oak influence, but still want the gentle oxidative processes that barrel aging provides, just w/o the vanilla that newer oak imparts.

    - same with the spirits you mentioned. many distillers keep their barrels well beyond the "neutral" stage. there is still some oxidative aging and esterification that can occur even in a neutral barrel.

    - some tequila-aged beers have already been mentioned in this thread. mikkeller makes a few tequila-barrel beers which are decent (BA black hole and mexas ranger). FW16 also included tequila-aged beer in the blend.
  37. kawilliams81

    kawilliams81 Meyvn (1,248) Feb 27, 2009 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Because beers in bourbon barrels taste so much better than ones in scotch barrels (unless you really like scotch maybe?)!
  38. Highbrow

    Highbrow Devotee (452) Jan 7, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    some good points made. besides practicality & access/availability, i'll add...

    as was covered, many scotch casks were originally bourbon barrels, those that were not originally bourbon, were almost all filled with other liquids for some period of time. a scotch cask might have 25+ years of spirit stealing oak ~ 4-10 (or more) years of original bourbon maturation, then 10-25 years of single malt maturation. "second fill", barrels/casks would have even more years of ware.

    that in mind, the flavors of bourbon barrels tend to compliment current American beer flavors. Scotch barrels (speaking in general) would have most of the original barrel flavors & characteristics very well worn by retirement. absent using very heavy "whisky" such as those typical of Islay, i'd wager it would take a lot longer to get significant flavors out of an old spent single malt cask than a moderate or even well aged (by American standards) bourbon barrel. imho, brewers probably don't want to sit on product & anticipated return$ for a second longer than necessary.
  39. OneBeertoRTA

    OneBeertoRTA Devotee (490) Jan 2, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    The process occurs in empty barrels and the liquid is held until it's married with a special 6 year bourbon.

    It's a pretty neat process that as is definately real.
  40. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,270) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    devil's cut is just using a small amount of water (which was going to be added to the bourbon before bottling anyway) to "rinse out" the bourbon that's still in the grain of the wood from a newly emptied barrel. this is then blended with standard 6-year jim beam.
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